North Carolina State upsets Duke (Jan. 12, 2013): The Wolfpack beat the top-ranked Blue Devils 84-76 and N.C. State fan Will Privette stormed the court in his wheelchair. C.J. Leslie, the game’s star, helped escort Privette to safety.
The scene has played out more than a dozen times on college basketball courts in the past month — with or without a wheelchair.
The clock starts ticking down, and at some point it becomes clear: the visiting team, which happens to be ranked in the top 25, is going to lose. The message begins to spread through the student body. Students head down toward the baselines.
They’re going to rush the court. It’ll be messy, potentially dangerous and confusing out there, but the students embrace it because, among other things, there’s a possibility they’ll get on TV. A blend of passion and excitement — fueled, in some cases, by adult beverages — carries them to the court.
Villanova senior Tim Stuart was captured by TV cameras shirtless and screaming after the Wildcats beat then-No. 5 Louisville on Jan. 26.
“When we got to the court, everyone was jumping up and down,” said Stuart, who is triple-majoring in finance, accounting and real estate. “It’s kind of crazy. It’s kind of like you’re in a night club with the lights on, and there’s music. Everyone’s hugging. I’m hugging kids I’d never seen before. Girls who couldn’t name one player on the team are on the court.”
Two weeks earlier North Carolina State students, led by wheelchair-bound Will Privette, stormed the floor after knocking off then-No. 1 Duke, led by Will Privette in a wheelchair. The video of the wheelchair court-stormer instantly went viral.
“It all is just kind of a big blur,” said N.C. State student body president Andy Walsh, who pushed Privette’s wheelchair onto the court. “One of the things I remember the most was how hot it got. Everybody is sweating, pouring sweat, when you leave. Not even just the basketball players who played in the game. There are just so many people, and it happens so quick. There’s an adrenaline rush.”
Victorious players will often hang around on the court to celebrate with their peers. Meanwhile, opposing players try to get to the nearest exit as soon as physically possible.
“When you’re in it for the first time, it’s a little shocking,” former Duke star Jon Scheyer said via Skype last week. “A lot of times, you’re kind of caught out in the open. You’re playing the game, and, obviously, the game ends, and you’re in the middle of the court. Sometimes, you need to physically get yourself out of the crowd. That was the biggest thing.”
In the past 10 seasons, Duke has lost 32 true road games. Fans rushed the court after 26 of them, according to the Wall Street Journal. Two of those losses came this season — to ACC foes N.C. State and Miami. Both resulted in court stormings.
“That’s something you expect when you’re at Duke,” Scheyer said.
Scheyer said the worst part of the experience is the loss itself, not the fans around you. There is the slightest of silver linings, however: At least the opposing fan base thought beating you merited such a reaction.
“It’s a statement to your team,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I tell (my players), ‘It’s what you want to be. You want to be the team that if you get beat, they have to storm the court.’”
GOOD FOR THE GAME
Calipari’s conference, the SEC, has a rule against court storming. that reads, “For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area.”With that policy comes a $5,000 fine that can be assessed to a school on a first offense and up to $25,000 and $50,000 for additional offenses. That might be one reason that when Arkansas beat No. 2 Florida last night, its fans didn’t rush the hardwood.
When South Carolina beat Calipari’s then-No. 1 Kentucky team at home in 2010, fans handed $1 bills to then-Gamecocks athletic director Eric Hyman to help defray the cost.
Most coaches interviewed for this story view court-storming as a great part of the sport — with the caveat that nobody gets injured. They say the melee doesn’t impact them or their players; it provides students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I watched the Butler-Gonzaga game, and that was a phenomenal ending,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “If I’d have been a student, I would have wanted to rush the floor and carry the players off.”
Larranaga said he has loved the amount of court-storms this season. He thinks it’s good for the game, showing that people care about and attend regular season games.
“You don’t get another chance to do that in the NCAA tournament,” Larranaga said. “The games are played on neutral sites. There aren’t that many students. There are issues with security. The only time you can really do it is a home game. “The students are not going to rush the court until it’s some special moment.”
Larranaga defines “special” as defeating a highly ranked opponent or a team you haven’t beaten in a long time.
But there have been some odd court-storms this season. Cal beat Oregon for the ninth straight time Saturday and stormed the floor. Wake Forest fans rushed the court after beating then-No. 19 N.C. State.
“You’re seeing it more and more, and the reason you’re seeing it is these games are so dramatic,” La Salle coach John Giannini said, who saw his team’s fans rush the court after beating Butler. “I grew up in an era where there was no reality TV. The best reality TV I could ever imagine is college basketball. The kids play so hard, the games are so unpredictable and the endings are so dramatic.
“I’m not surprised to see emotional responses. … The kids that attend that school and support that team and come to all the home games will look back on those games 20, 30, 40 years from now and remember it.”
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